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Archive for the tag “compensation”

The United Shapes of Arithmetic: An American Flag

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

Here are the links to the previously posted strips:

Here is the latest strip:

https://scontent-lga3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/22366786_1327520117354599_8274247563828994579_n.jpg?oh=36d6386cb8d3789943e6b20517d9e95f&oe=5A41D371

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Distributism and Large-Scale Industry

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

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Thomas Storck’s recent article about the antagonistic relationship between owners and workers prevalent in capitalist enterprises included the following statement. “The activity of the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain proves that there is no reason why large-scale and highly technical industrial operations cannot be worker owned.” This sentence prompted a reader to respond with a request.

“Please provide a follow up article showing how this system works for Mondragon, their profit, employee take home, growth, etc…”

This response to that request will address two things. I will first provide the information requested, then I will address the case of Mondragon and how it does, and does not, relate to distributism.

Mondragon started as a technical college, founded by Father José María Arizmendiarrieta in 1943. Its first cooperative was established with 5 workers making paraffin heaters in 1955. Today, Mondragon is a cooperative federation comprised of over 250 companies and 74,000 workers operating in the finance, industrial, retail and knowledge sectors. Mondragon’s sales in 2014 were €10,985 million (US $12.48 billion). They put €145 million (US $164 million)  in research and invested €345 million (US $392 million). They have 15 technology centers, 1,676 researchers and have filed 479 patent families.

I don’t have specific information on employee take-home, but each company agrees to set its own wage ratio within an agreed upon range of 3:1 to 9:1. The average is 5:1, meaning that the highest paid person in a given company typically makes no more than five times what the lowest paid person in the same company does. The result of this is that the workers doing non-management jobs at Mondragon typically make 13% more than similar local jobs outside of its structure. Most workers make well above the minimum wage since they are employed in jobs requiring high levels of skill and technical training, Mondragon’s managers do earn less than those outside of its structure, but this is because they agree that Mondragon’s model is better than the typical corporate model.

Only 103 of Mondragon’s 260 companies are cooperatives. This in itself does not make it incompatible with distributism. I don’t have any details about the other 157 companies, like whether they are small, independently owned businesses. The ideal of distributism is that everyone own the capital used to earn his living, but we accept that this ideal may never be fully achieved. Some people may just prefer prefer to be employees, or may have to work as employees for some time before they can become owners. Distributism does not require that every shop be a worker owned cooperative, but those that are not would tend to be small local shops, and I don’t know the extent to which this is the case for those Mondragon companies that are not cooperatives.

The original cooperative established with five members back in 1955 grew to become Fagor Electrodomestics, the largest company in Mondragon’s federation. The Fagor brand is currently present in 100 countries, employs more than 12,000 people in 17 countries and operates 16 factories in 3 continents. Due to mismanagement, it had to declare bankruptcy in October 2013. The economic articles from capitalist pundits seemed to hardly contain their glee at what they perceived as the fall of the greatest example that methods other than their own could work. The Economist declared that “one of the group’s key principles—of solidarity among its 110 constituent co-ops—has found its limit.” Actually, what had reached its limit was the federation’s willingness to extend another loan to prop up Fagor when it had no plans which would resolve its problems.

Before crowing so loudly, capitalist economists should have waited to see the reality of this commitment and how it compares to what happens when the typical capitalist enterprise goes bankrupt. The reality of Mondragon’s commitment to worker solidarity is revealed by what the federation actually did regarding the workers of Fagor. Mondragon’s social mutual, Lagun Aro, proposed a 1.5% raise in contributions from all members at the next General Assembly so it could provide needed unemployment benefits to displaced Fagor worker-owners. They received 80 percent of their salary while Mondragon identified new positions for these workers. Compare this to the layoffs we’ve all seen reported when large capitalist employers go bankrupt or have to restructure to avoid bankruptcy.

This clearly shows the dynamic vibrancy and resilience of the cooperative model even when operating with large-scale, multi-national, highly technical industrial operations. This is why various cooperative organizations, the p2p economic movement and distributists all can validly point to Mondragon as an example of how well the cooperative model truly works.

When it comes to distributism, however, my opinion is that we need to be more carefully nuanced when using Mondragon as an example. It has grown to a size and scale of operation beyond that which distributists actually promote and which goes against the preference for local or even regional economics to the international model touted today. We are not in any way against international trade, but individual corporations employing thousands in multiple countries seems to me to go against our economic model, and Fagor is an example of why. The description of how Mondragon handled the bankruptcy of Fagor should not be taken as a claim that it wasn’t an issue for the federation. The mismanagement of Fagor not only impacted its thousands of employees, but the entire Mondragon organization. The fact that it was able to come up with a solution that maintained its commitment to worker solidarity does not mean that this was an easy solution or that it did not put significant strain on the people or the finances of Mondragon as a whole.

In the past, Fagor might have been held by some to be the shining example of Mondragon’s success because it was the largest company with the most employees, but that is looking at the organization from a strictly capitalist perspective. What happened in the wake of Fagor’s bankruptcy shows that the many smaller cooperatives and the overall commitment to worker solidarity are the mark of Mondragon’s success. They helped to support Fagor with the loans it received before the final straw that resulted in its bankruptcy. They supported the workers displaced when Fagor failed. Democratically based worker solidarity is at the very heart of the cooperative movement, and also at the very heart of the guild structure distributists promote.

It is clear that the cooperative model works and this is why distributists propose this model for large scale operations, particularly those which only make sense at a more regional rather than local level. Of course, cooperatives also work at a local level and we promote that as well. 

I hope this article fulfills the request of our reader.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Ali v. McClinton, PICS Case No. 17-0997 (E.D. Pa. June 14, 2017) McHugh, J.

My firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., represents the Plaintiff in the case captioned as Ali v. McClinton, (ED PA, June 14, 2017).  On July 7, 2017 the Ali case was featured in The Legal Intelligencer and can be found here.

United Shapes of Arithmetic: Dog Abuse

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

Here are the links to the previously posted strips:

Here is the latest strip:

No automatic alt text available.

Fired Legislative Staffer Can Move Ahead With Suit Alleging Use of State Funds To Promote Church Facility

My firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., represents the Plaintiff in the case captioned as Ali v. McClinton, (ED PA, June 14, 2017).  The Ali case has been featured in an article entitled “Fired Legislative Staffer Can Move Ahead With Suit Alleging Use of State Funds to Promote Church Facility,” by Religion Clause on June 15, 2017, which can be found here.  You can also read it below:

“In Ali v. McClinton, (ED PA, June 14, 2017), a Pennsylvania federal district court refused to dismiss on 11th Amendment grounds a suit against a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in her personal capacity. The court permitted fired constituent services staffer El Shafiyq Asad Ali to move ahead on his 1st Amendment Establishment Clause claim and one of his Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law claims.  Ali alleges that Rep. Joanna McClinton fired him after he objected to McClinton’s asking him to organize an event, to be paid for from state funds, at a Philadelphia Housing Authority site. The event was designed to promote a nearby facility that the Open Door Mission True Light Church planned to open.  Rep. McClinton is a minister at the Church.  The court however did dismiss Ali’s religious discrimination claims, certain of his Whistleblower Act claims and all of his “official capacity” claims against McClinton and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.”

Law Office Video: Radio Segment #2/2

My law firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., has established a YouTube channel which you can see here.

We are in the process of creating videos to upload to our new YouTube channel and hope to post a new video about once per month.

We hope our viewers can be edified by the information we convey.  Please contact us with your legal needs!

Here are the links to our previous videos:

Here is our latest video:

Law Office Video: Radio Segment #1/2

My law firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., has established a YouTube channel which you can see here.

We are in the process of creating videos to upload to our new YouTube channel and hope to post a new video about once per month.

We hope our viewers can be edified by the information we convey.  Please contact us with your legal needs!

Here are the links to our previous videos:

Here is our latest video:

Redemption Available Immediately After a Sheriff’s Sale

In the recent matter of City of Philadelphia v. F.A. Realty Investors Corp., 95 A.3d 377 (Pa.Cmwlth.2014), the Court had the opportunity to tackle a matter of first impression when interpreting 53 P.S. Section 7293 with regard to when a property owner may redeem his property after a sheriff’s sale.

In F.A., the piece of real estate at issue (“the Property”) was subject to a tax delinquency which led to an order by the trial court to sell the Property at a sheriff’s sale in order to satisfy the aforesaid tax delinquency. Not long after the order was entered, the Property was sold at sheriff’s sale. Immediately after the sale, Defendant filed to redeem the Property, but its petition to do so was dismissed by the trial court.

According to 53 P.S. 7293, a property owner may redeem a property sold at sheriff’s sale “at any time within nine months from the date of the acknowledgment of the sheriff’s deed therefore, upon payment of the amount bid at such sale.” The City of Philadelphia argued that Defendant’s immediate action to redeem the Property was premature as it acted prior to the acknowledgment of the deed. The trial court agreed with the City’s interpretation and application of the statute when it dismissed Defendant’s petition.

When interpreting the statute cited above, the Court first noted that, per 1 Pa.C.S. Sections 1921 and 1922, and the cases decided thereunder, statutory construction ought not lead to an absurd result, and when there is ambiguity in the language of a statute, the court may look to the intent of the legislature to help provide interpretive guidance. The Court also explained that the redemption statute is to be liberally construed in order to effect justice, pointing out that the purpose of sheriffs’ sales is not to strip a property owner of his real estate, but simply to collect on municipal claims.

Defendant argued that making them wait until the sheriff’s deed is acknowledged would likely, and unjustly, lead to unnecessary additional fees, costs, taxes, and/or interest and, therefore, its prompt action could avoid these costs.

The Court observed that the applicable statute has at least two interpretations. The first being that the phrase “at any time” literally means at any time, without regard to when the acknowledgment occurs, as long as it is within the nine month time frame. The second interpretation begins the nine month period for redemption at the time of acknowledgment.

As the language is, in the Court’s view, ambiguous, it looked to legislative intent and, on that basis concluded that the legislature would not try and increase a property owner’s difficulty to redeem property. Indeed, a property owner may retain possession of a house sold at sheriff’s sale until the sale is completed by the acknowledgment and delivery of the deed obtained at the sale. As a result, the Court believed it would be an absurd result to disallow a property owner from redeeming his property while he is in possession of it simply because the deed had technically not been acknowledged.

Finally, Pennsylvania law prohibits the redemption of a vacant property after the date of acknowledgment. In light of the above, namely that absurd results are to be avoided and that the purpose of sheriffs’ sales is not to strip someone of his property but merely to ensure municipal claims are satisfied, it would seem that the City of Philadelphia’s arguments would disallow someone from redeeming a vacant property at all. In other words, if a property is vacant, an owner cannot redeem it after acknowledgment and, if the City’s interpretation of 53 P.S. 7293 is correct, he would not be able to redeem it before either, and this would be an absurd result, not to mention an unjust one, preventing an owner from redeeming his property.

So, in sum, in light of the above, and after review of the applicable statutes, the Court ruled that a property owner can redeem his property sold at sheriff’s sale at any time up to nine months after acknowledgment of the sale.

Originally published in Upon Further Review” June 7, 2017 and can be seen here.

Pushing at the Edges: An oral history of women who began practicing law in the early 1970s

Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire has been featured in an article entitled Pushing at the Edges, by Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and originally published in Superlawyers Magazine on May 24, 2017, which can be found here.  The article features opinions, impressions, anecdotes, and stories of female attorneys who have been practicing for over 40 years.  It is posted below.

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By the time they went to law school at Harvard and Penn and BU in the 1970s, women found female colleagues, and when they interviewed with firms, they found one or two women forebears. “I felt I was accepted as a lawyer,” recalls Faye Cohen, a 1972 law school graduate now practicing in Philadelphia.

But Cohen and her peers still had battles to fight. One opposing counsel in a long-ago arbitration hearing told Martha Hartle Munsch, now an equity partner at Reed Smith in Pittsburgh, “Shut up, sweetie”—and the male arbitrator let it slide. Some women endured male colleagues making jokes about their engagement rings and bras; male professors going overboard with rape examples; male judges sneering at briefcases and pantsuits. “I can still hear [the ‘shut up’ comment] ringing,” Munsch recalls.

Here are some of their stories.

Women entering the law faced discrimination in the ’70s, but many of their mothers and aunts couldn’t even go to law school.

Regina O’Brien Thomas, Ballard Spahr, Boston University School of Law 1973: My mom was an “at-home” legal secretary to an uncle who was a small-town lawyer. She closed her bedroom door and typed “stips,” which many years later I understood to be stipulations. Even when you read stories about the pioneers Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor, my mother was before their time. In 1941, maybe you could find one [female attorney] somewhere, but an ordinary woman in an ordinary town like my mom certainly could not aspire to be a lawyer. My mom couldn’t; I could.

Susan K. Hoffman, Littler Mendelson, University of Pennsylvania Law School 1974: My father was a truck driver, my mother was a secretary, and I thought I wanted to be a physicist or a mathematician. But I ended up majoring in economics and, probably because I grew up reading my father’s Teamster magazines, I became very interested in working on labor relations. I spent my summers working for an actuarial firm, because I babysat the actuary’s kids when I was in high school. I knew I didn’t want to be an actuary, but I liked the business environment and I figured I’d get a job in labor relations management. But in 1969 and ’70, I couldn’t get a job interview because I was a girl.

In 1970, women still made up only 4 percent of the student body in U.S. law school. It was still a man’s world.

Alice Gosfield, Alice G. Gosfield and Associates, NYU School of Law 1973: The only role model I had at that time as a female lawyer was Bella Abzug, who I did not consider to be a model I wanted to follow. I thought, “Well, it’s only three years, I’ll go.”

Martha Hartle Munsch, Reed Smith, Yale Law School 1973: I was the sports editor of my undergraduate student newspaper and I wanted to be a sports journalist. I have no lawyers in my family. I never really aspired to go to law school. But my best friend convinced me to take the law boards, and I did really well. This was before women really had any visibility in sports journalism. I learned that Howard Cosell was a lawyer. I tell people, if ESPN had existed back in the early 1970s, I would never have become a practicing lawyer.

Marilyn Kutler, Schnader Harrison, University of Pennsylvania Law School 1974: I approached a man [who] was a lawyer by training and he had graduated from Penn Law in 1930. We had a very nice business relationship and I said, “Gee, I’m hoping I can get a reference for Penn Law School,” and he said, “Oh, really, why are you going?” I said, “Because I think I would be a good lawyer.” He said, without missing a beat, “But I think you might displace a man.” And I remember thinking, “Really?”

Sherrie Savett, Berger & Montague, University of Pennsylvania Law School 1973: There were 30 women in our law school class out of 200. It had been 5 percent or less in all the previous classes. Our class was like a quantum leap.

Thomas: My 1970 Boston University class was the first class with a sizable percentage of women. They had no large enough women’s room at the law school and had to turn the Law Review office into a women’s room. But it was always getting better.

Hoffman: There was one much-loved professor who was absolutely wonderful, and he taught evidence, and all of his hypotheticals were rape hypotheticals. At one point, a few of the women got together and approached him and said, “It’s very hard for us to sit there, day after day, listening to stories of rape.” And he said, “Oh my God, that never occurred to me, I started doing that to keep men awake.”

Thomas: One of the biggest things I had to learn was to speak up for myself. In law school, I, and certainly every other woman, didn’t speak out most of the time—and guess who filled the vacuum? Men! They all spoke up. Eventually, I learned to speak up and not be shy about asking what pay my work deserves. I guess that’s the lesson women need to do, because some of us are naturally too polite.

Many were lucky enough to join supportive firms with progressive male mentors; others, not so much.

Deena Jo Schneider, Schnader Harrison, Harvard Law School 1974: [My husband’s] uncle was from New York, and I remember his law firm. One of the senior partners said to me I had no business going to law school because I was taking the place of somebody who needed the job and I would never be a practicing lawyer and I would leave and get a station wagon to drive my kids around. I looked at him and said, “Well, I don’t really like station wagons. But I think I will be a lawyer and I hope I have a family, too.” I didn’t go to work there.

Thomas: I applied for a summer clerkship in 1971. My husband and I wanted to try Philadelphia, just because it was halfway between our parents. There was only one firm at Philadelphia that came to BU, so I interviewed [with] them. That interviewer spent my entire interview asking questions about my husband. That law firm had no women. They actually offered me a job, so I declined and wrote letters to two other law firms that had at least one woman, and I went to Ballard. I’ve been there ever since.

Faye Cohen, Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, University of Denver College of Law 1972: I was able to find a job—they treated me very nicely. It was an all-male firm and it was in Wilkes-Barre. I was the only woman lawyer in Wilkes-Barre at the time. I remember attending a Bar Association outing. There was a golf tournament, and they gave me a prize for being the only woman.

Schneider: The interview started and [the interviewer] asked me to stand up and turn around. I was so taken aback. He repeated the request and I stood up and I didn’t turn around and I said, “Why are you asking me this?” And he backed off. I remember telling a couple of my friends afterward, and they were up in arms. They were like, “You have to report this guy and get the firm banned.” I was reluctant to do that because it was one person from this firm—he was not smart; I certainly didn’t like it, but I did not think the proper thing to do was make the firm pay for it by being banned from campus. I always thought that what you should do is say, “That’s really not an appropriate thing to say, I’m just as capable as anybody else, give me a chance and I’ll show it to you,” and disprove things by your actions, as opposed to getting people in trouble for just saying things that weren’t very thoughtful.

Kutler: I remember interviewing at one firm that said they already had a woman.

The remarks, the remarks, the remarks. How is a professional lawyer supposed to respond to something like, “Shut up, sweetie”?

Cohen: There was one elderly judge. Every time I walked into the courtroom—it was a smaller court, there might be 50 people—if I had to get up to go to the restroom, he’d say, “Why are you carrying this briefcase?”

Thomas: I had a judge who wouldn’t let me wear my pantsuit, which I modeled after Mary Tyler Moore and purchased with my first paycheck. I had an opponent who successfully blocked a lawsuit extension when I was pregnant.

Kutler: When I was probably eight months pregnant, and we were going to a meeting with a big bank, [a colleague] said to me, “I’m going to need to introduce you.” I said, “I know all these people.” He said, “No, just wait.” He says, “So, you all know Marilyn, I’m coming as her obstetrician.” That was a pretty weird situation. Could you get all upset? Definitely. When I thought people were really over the line, and sometimes people were, with really inappropriate statements, I said something and it usually stopped.

Savett: The anti-women stuff, the really insulting stuff, for the most part stopped in the 10 to 15 years after I got out of law school. After that there was less and less of it. But there was always some really uncouth lawyer who would make a comment. As time went along, the comments didn’t even sting you. Sentiments had shifted, and comments like that just reflect poorly on the men who made them.

Munsch: Not only the law firms were male-dominated; the executives for the clients with whom I’d be working were men. It was really a fabulous icebreaker to be sitting with clients at dinner in any part of the country and I could talk sports to them.

Hoffman: Only once did I say something nasty to a client. I was called into a meeting and this guy had a serious situation that I was an expert in, and I tried to give him advice and he was saying something like, “Little lady, why should I listen to you?” And I said, “Well, buddy, it’s your money, so you can either listen to me or lose it.”

Gosfield: I remember a client I represented for 25 years, and he called me and said, “I didn’t like you when I first met you. I don’t like pushy women.” I said, “OK.” He said, “But now we’re fine.” I said, “Fine.”

Munsch: When I had my daughter in 1986, I tried a jury case when I was seven months pregnant. I actually thought it was a great advantage because I’ll tell you, the jury is so sympathetic to you when you’re pregnant. They hated that the case ended so quickly. They said, “We wanted the case to go on because we were so interested in your maternity outfits.”

In the ’70s, family-leave policies were more or less nonexistent, so attorneys who wanted to have children had to invent the concept at their own firms and figure out how to implement it.

Thomas: I was the first woman at Ballard to return after having a child. I didn’t know how to handle it, I didn’t know what to ask for, Ballard didn’t know what to do. They didn’t have any policies. There was also the silly concept that women could be superwomen—there was even a cover in Time or something. So I just soldiered on. But soon enough another woman partner and I proposed written maternity policies, and for decades Ballard has been very generous in offering maternity policies and flex time. We wouldn’t get the many women we have if we didn’t do that.

Schneider: I came back [from having a baby] on an hourly basis. I went on trial on a case and my hours went through the roof. The managing partner came to me and said, “Deena, this is ridiculous, you’re making my life very hard, I have to figure out every two weeks what to pay you and you’re making more money than you would be if you weren’t going part-time, and let’s just put you back on salary.” I said, “Well, I need some flexibility.” And he said, “We’ll have flexibility, just figure it out.” I thought there was resentment from people because I dared to have a kid and cut this “special” deal.

Savett: There were no family-leave policies whatsoever. I gave birth on a weekend and I worked up until the Friday, and I was back in less than two months. In retrospect, I really don’t think I took enough time. I was concerned about leaving my job for too long, and, at the same time, I felt guilty and torn about leaving my new baby. Now, most firms give at least three to four months with pay when women have babies; that’s so much kinder and better. When they come back, they’re ready to come back and be productive again, and their status within the law firm has not been diminished at all.

Hoffman: When I was up for a partnership at Goodwin Procter, there was one male partner who was reported to have said at a partners’ meeting, “We’re hiring too many female associates, because everyone knows women can’t get clients.” So I get a call from a woman I met through the American Bar Association who was in-house at Conoco. She said, “Do you have a firm resume?” I called [the male partner] and I explained what I was looking for, and there was this moment of silence on the phone. And he said, “Wow, that’s terrific, how did you get that?” I was about to respond routinely when a little imp in the back of my mind took over and I said, “Well, you might say it’s the old girls’ network.”

The battles against discrimination and double standards are far from over. But many attorneys feel that continued progress is inevitable.

Hoffman: We learned from the last election there are subconscious barriers. I have no doubt that the hostility toward Hillary Clinton in both male and female voters was based in part on her gender, because she didn’t act the way a nice lady was supposed to act. And that’s going to require a societal change, not a change in the legal profession.

Cohen: Oh, I definitely feel there’s progress being made. The first large firm I practiced with, there were very few women, and they never mentioned that they had children. Now, many of my cases are all women: The judges are women, there are women on the other side.

Gosfield: I’m a colleague and peer of a young woman who is the co-chair of the health law department at a large national firm. About three years ago, she and two other women were sitting in a health lawyers’ presentation, and some older guy who was speaking said, “Of course, it’s better if you hire women, because they make less money.” The three of them said they were going to form a women’s health council. I said, “Look, we did this in the early ’70s. Isn’t it over? Why is this necessary again?”

Thomas: I’m optimistic. I really am. The young women coming along are just amazing. And it’s just a matter of time before it’ll be 50/50.

Schneider: There’s no question that, for women, and it’s true today, there’s a narrower range of acceptable behavior. If a woman dresses well, she’s too fashionable; if a man dresses well, he looks good. If a woman doesn’t dress well, she’s dowdy; if a man doesn’t dress well, he doesn’t care. If a woman laughs too much, she’s frivolous; if a man laughs, he’s got a good sense of humor. I pushed at those edges because I was forceful; I did like nice clothes; I’m not quiet. You can’t be quiet and succeed in the times I lived.

The United Shapes of Arithmetic: An Adjustment

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

Here are the links to the previously posted strips:

Here is the latest strip:

No automatic alt text available.

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